Hortebise then took his leave, quite worn out with the severe conflict he had waged during his two hours’ interview with the Countess. In spite of the extreme cold, the air outside seemed to refresh him considerably, and he inhaled it with the happy feeling that he had performed his duty in a manner worthy of all praise. He walked up the Rue de Faubourg Saint Honore, and again entered the cafe where he and his worthy confederate had agreed to meet. Mascarin was there, an untasted cutlet before him, and his face hidden by a newspaper which his anxiety would not permit him to peruse. His suspense was terrible. Had Hortebise failed? had he encountered one of those unforeseen obstacles which, like a minute grain of sand, utterly hinders the working of a piece of delicate machinery?
“Well, what news?” said he eagerly, as soon as he caught sight of the doctor.
“Success, perfect success!” said Hortebise gayly. “But,” added he, as he sank exhausted upon a seat, “the battle has been a hard one.”
IN THE STUDIO.
Staggering like a drunken man, Paul Violaine descended the stairs when his interview with Mascarin had been concluded. The sudden and unexpected good fortune which had fallen so opportunely at his feet had for the moment absolutely stunned him. He was now removed from a position which had caused him to gaze with longing upon the still waters of the Seine, to one of comparative affluence. “Mascarin,” said he to himself, “has offered me an appointment bringing in twelve thousand francs per annum, and proposed to give me the first month’s salary in advance.”
Certainly it was enough to bewilder any man, and Paul was utterly dazed. He went over all the events that had occurred during the day—the sudden appearance of old Tantaine, with his loan of five hundred francs, and the strange man who knew the whole history of his life, and who, without making any conditions, had offered him a valuable situation. Paul was in no particular hurry to get back to the Hotel de Perou, for he said to himself that Rose could wait. A feeling of restlessness had seized upon him. He wanted to squander money, and to have the sympathy of some companions,—but where should he go, for he had no friends? Searching the records of his memory, he remembered that, when poverty had first overtaken him, he had borrowed twenty francs from a young fellow of his own age, named Andre. Some gold coins still jingled in his pocket, and he could have a thousand francs for the asking. Would it not add to his importance if he were to go and pay this debt? Unluckily his creditor lived a long distance off in the Rue de la Tour d’Auvergne. He, however, hailed a passing cab, and was driven to Andre’s address. This young man was only a casual acquaintance, whom Paul had picked up one day in a small wine-shop to which he used to take Rose when he first arrived in Paris. Andre, with